So it’s nothing new to take stories and re-tell them in a new setting. The most obvious example might be science-fiction, where often the extremity of the setting allows for a tidy allegory. This often manifests as the “… IN SPACE!” plot. You know, “It’s High Noon… IN SPACE!” (the movie Outland.) ”It’s the Cold War… IN SPACE!” (the original Star Trek) “It’s the Embargo Act of 1807… IN SPACE!” (Star Wars: Episode I). Sometimes it’s more subtle, like Fight Club as a retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; Other times, it’s simply a re-imagining, like Clueless, or simply taking the original text and putting it in a new physical setting.
When it’s done well, it’s great. It opens up whole new ways of looking at the subject and the story. When it’s done badly it’s painful, lazy. Nowhere is this more evident than with Shakespeare. It’s practically a law that you have to “set” your Shakespeare play somewhere weird. ANYWHERE but Elizabethan Europe, thank you. And when it’s done well, like Ian McKellan’s Richard III set in WWII, it’s very cool.
Last night I saw a production of The Tempest set at Woodstock. The acting was good, so the play was enjoyable, but no real effort was made to make the setting make sense. Everyone was dressed like hippies, and we were told “it’s set at Woodstock,” but then they continued to talk about the king of Naples; the characters were shipwrecked on this “island”; Prospero the wizard (were there a lot of wizards at Woodstock?) complained about being exiled there for 12 years. I don’t know about you, but 12 years at a rock concert sounds pretty awful. Send the brown acid my way, I have to get out of here, man. I couldn’t even pay attention for the first half because I kept thinking about the ways they could have worked Woodstock and rock and the 60′s in to the narrative, since they seemed insistent on doing so. And now I really want to see that play.
And what do you really want to see? What story – fiction or non – would you love to see transplanted in to a new setting? I know, this is a thinker, this week. Maybe it’s highbrow: maybe you want to see Julius Caesar set in a grade school. Maybe you want to read “The Raven” retold with an automated telemarketer instead of a bird, or or see The Seven Samurai set in modern New York, or read Huck Finn… IN SPACE (okay, that would probably not be highbrow). Or maybe it’s not: Maybe you want to read Twilight under the sea, I don’t know. Whatever – I want to hear about it!
For your Weekly Question of the Week: What book, movie, play, etc. would you love to see (for real or out of morbid curiosity) retold in a new setting?